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Argument: Fairness Doctrine ignores sufficiency of modern media alternatives

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Supporting quotations

"Broadcasting, reintroducing the Fairness Doctrine". Debatabase. 27 Aug. 2008 - The introduction of the Fairness Doctrine was justified due to the scarcity of radio spectrum, but this argument no longer applies. Modern broadcasting technology has allowed many more stations to compete over the airwaves without danger of interference, so audiences are guaranteed a multiplicity of viewpoints. Even since 1987 we have entered a completely new media world of which traditional broadcasting is only a small part. Citizens today are exposed to speech and opinion from a great many outlets, including cable, satellite, and online phenomena such as web radio, blogs, online discussion forums, email bulletins, newspaper and pressure group sites, etc. Newspapers are still highly influential – and like the new media, they were never subjected to a fairness doctrine at any point. Reimposing such a requirement on broadcasters alone would not only be pointless in today’s media marketplace, it would also unfairly limit their ability to compete in a fast-moving digital world.

Adam Thierer. "Why the Fairness Doctrine is Anything But Fair". Heritage Foundation. 29 Oct. 1993 - Faulty Premise #1: The "scarce" amount of spectrum space requires oversight by federal regulators.

Reality: Although the spectrum is limited, the number of broadcasters in America has continuously increased.

Supporters of the fairness doctrine argue that because the airwaves are a scarce resource, they should be policed by federal bureaucrats to ensure that all viewpoints are heard. Yet, just because the spectrum within which broadcast frequencies are found has boundaries, it does not mean that there is a practical shortage of views being heard over the airwaves. When the fairness doctrine was first conceived, only 2,881 radio and 98 television stations existed. By 1960, there were 4,309 radio and 569 television stations. By 1989, these numbers grew to over 10,000 radio stations and close to 1,400 television stations. Likewise, the number of radios in use jumped from 85.2 million in 1950 to 527.4 million by 1988, and televisions in use went from 4 million to 175.5 million during that period. ("The Fairness Doctrine," National Association of Broadcasters, Backgrounder (1989).)

Even if it may once have been possible to monopolize the airwaves, and to deny access to certain viewpoints, that is impossible today. A wide variety of opinions is available to the public through radios, cable channels, and even computers. With America on the verge of information superhighways and 500-channel televisions, there is little prospect of speech being stifled.

"It’s not fairness". Los Angeles Times. 24 Jul. 2007 - "No matter what your point of view might be, you have free or inexpensive outlets available today to express it — maybe not a radio or TV station but certainly a website, a video blog, a podcast or an e-mail newsletter. At the same time, the public has unprecedented access to a diverse array of opinions. Just as the government shouldn't decide what you say on the channels you create, nor should it be able to dictate the range of opinions people hear over the air."

Barbara Comstock & Lanny J. Davis. "What’s Fair Is Fair. And fair is not the 'Fairness Doctrine.'". National Review Online. 20 Oct. 2008 - we would suggest this well-worn maxim: “The remedy for speech you don’t like is not less speech, it is more speech.” “More speech” is something that today’s 24/7 media environment provides abundantly for all sides.

That is why today the coalition opposing the Fairness Doctrine is broader than ever. Those who cannot compete in the marketplace of ideas have only themselves to blame.

Michael Gerson. "Where the Mines Are". Washington Post. 14 Nov. 2008 - "This kind of heavy-handed approach [the Fairness Doctrine] is a remnant of a time when public sources of information -- mainly the three networks and large radio stations -- were so limited that government felt compelled to guarantee balance. Given today's proliferation of media outlets, such regulation of speech is both unnecessary and Orwellian."

"No need to bring back the 'fairness doctrine'". Concord Monitor. 13 Nov. 2008 - "If there ever was a justification for the government to tell broadcasters what they must air, surely the growth of cable television, satellite radio and, most of all, the internet has made it moot. You may not like what's being peddled in a given aisle of the marketplace of ideas, but more than ever you can take your ears and eyes elsewhere. Increasingly, as millions upon millions of bloggers have proven, you can tell everyone else what to think instead of listening to anyone at all."

Derek Hunter. "'Fairness doctrine': Anything but fair". Politico. 17 May 2007 - The Fairness Doctrine is an old Federal Communications Commission regulation that required all political opinion broadcast on the public airwaves to be balanced with equal time for the opposing viewpoint. Originating in the 1940s, when radio and television stations were few and far between, it may have made sense to require balance, lest a region be inundated with unchallenged opinion presented as fact.

But as time passed, more stations came along, offering consumers what they longed for: choice. Radio and television stations popped up by the thousands, offering a microphone to anyone. Opinions of all types were abundant, making the Fairness Doctrine obsolete. But it was still on the books and therefore had to be adhered to. Until, that is, President Ronald Reagan threw it on the ash pile of history, overturning it in 1987.

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